Simply stated, smpl, member management software for coworking spaces, came out of both a business desire and a market need.
But, as is often the case with startups, making it happen was easier said than done.
Smpl (pronounced simple) was an idea initially considered by Garrett Tichy, who saw an opportunity in his coworking business. Tichy opened the first location of Hygge in Charlotte’s Third Ward in late 2015. Since then the coworking brand has opened two more locations — one on Remount Road and the newest one at Camp North End. As the number of locations grew, so did the number of members — and so did the operational and logistical inefficiencies for Tichy as owner and manager.
He drew up the concept for a software system that would solve those problems, and recruited a team to build it. But it just wasn’t working. The team failed to take the vision to an actual product. Tichy considered outsourcing it and, at one point, killing the concept completely.
That was until he realized he had the perfect team to build it right there at Hygge.
Software developers Mike Bifulco and Sean Rogers know each other well. The two have been friends since their days as roommates at the University of Connecticut. Rogers had solid experience coworking in San Francisco; Bifulco had traveled and worked all over Asia, perfecting the art of working remotely. Neither needed to be sold on coworking.
Then, both found themselves in Charlotte working from Hygge’s Third Ward location.
“Garrett kept mentioning it to us that he had this idea, which was smpl, and he was trying to convince us both to join him on it,” Bifulco says with a laugh. “[Rogers and I] drove up to Asheville for some tacos and beers, and we read over Garrett’s business plan. Garrett had worked pretty hard to build out a good idea of what it should look like and how it should act.”
Not long after that, all three — Tichy, Bifulco and Rogers — were hard at work building smpl.
“This a growing market with competition that’s scattered and bad,” Rogers adds. “We knew the market was ready for something better.”
Their solution, smpl, is fresh, innovative software built to support coworking spaces and space managers; but what’s also innovative is how this team has consciously constructed the software.
“I hear from a lot of people who I talk to about smpl, ‘I trust you because you seem like me,’” Tichy says.
The fact that all three know and understand coworking as well as they do has become a competitive advantage in how the software has evolved since it hit the market just last year.
“Coworking is a trend that’s growing quickly, and because smpl is built by people who cowork, we can address and fix the growing problems — and opportunities,” Tichy adds. “I genuinely care about building something that’s able to give people back their time because I know how much that means in this business.”
Attention to detail was critical to smpl’s product development because it was something the team felt they didn’t see in other products.
“Because we had experiences stumbling through other software, we would sometimes spend months iterating through processes to get it right for smpl,” Rogers says. “We continue to put that much thought into every little thing we’re building.”
The software’s name, smpl, is intentional — a sort of mission statement for the startup. And so far, it’s holding true for smpl’s customers, who tend to be young or not-yet-open coworking spaces searching for affordable member management options.
“One of the first bits of feedback we got was how easy it was to sign up a new member,” Rogers recalls.
Smpl’s work in 2018 includes building out its calendar function before aggressively building the next round of features. Through it all, though, the team is clear on why they do what they do.
“We just really believe there’s a better way, and smpl will always be about that,” Tichy notes.